Let’s address the elephant in the room: I’m a middle-aged white female, so the viewpoint is going to come from that angle. It’s also important that you know that I do not watch the news, and I’ll explain later why watching any news program is likely to make you less informed than if you didn’t watch any. I wait for synthesis. After the initial emotions are out, and we have the real facts, then I can make a reasoned decision on what happened. Sometimes. Sometimes we just don’t know what we need to know to make a decision. And sometimes it’s really none of our business. At those times, we need to pay attention to what the focus is. (hint: it’s divisiveness)
Look around at your friends. You probably have a pretty diverse group of people you like spending time with, and the group probably shifts depending on the activity. When I want to go hiking, the group tends toward the outdoorsy crowd. At work, we’re pretty geeky. We have varying skin tones and cultures and backgrounds. We represent a pretty broad income and wealth spectrum, but none of us fall into “the 1%” of wealthiest Americans.
Someone is imposing divisiveness on us. I don’t know a single person among my friends of any color who would participate in rioting or looting in “protest.” I don’t know a single person among my friends who would say that any lives are less valuable than any other lives. I don’t know a single person among my friends that would justify police brutality against any person of any race. All of my friends are saying the same thing, that their friends also don’t feel that same way. Surely we don’t live in a tiny minority of people who behave rationally toward one another? So where is all this contention coming from?
We are being fed
Think about it. These feelings of animosity are NOT organic. Someone is generating them. People don’t naturally feel resentment toward people of other income levels. People don’t naturally hate people of other races. Women don’t naturally resent men. Children don’t naturally hate their parents and hold them in contempt. Hate is being generated. Hate is being spoon-fed to us. And we are eating it up and regurgitating it on command. Why?
The answer can be condensed into this one concept: Divisiveness leads to control.
Contention cannot produce peace
As long as we feel that we have an enemy, we can turn to the government to control that enemy, and we will give up a significant amount of our liberty in order to gain that control. The result is that we ourselves become the subject of control. Since we still live in a white-majority nation, agitators stir us up against minorities, and we are afraid that “they” will “come after” us, so we call for a heavy hand of law and order to maintain “peace.” Do you feel peaceful? Probably not. Why not? Because contention cannot produce peace.
And, still in that white-majority nation, it is true and evident that minorities, and most particularly blacks and hispanics, are NOT treated by authority equally with whites. And to minorities want justice. Who can blame them? It rarely comes. But on those occasions when justice is served, and justice falls on the side of the minority individual, do we feel peaceful? Probably not. Why not? Because contention cannot produce peace.
Us vs. Them
We see the “news” reports about wealthy people and corporations doing bad things, and the divide is then not along racial lines, but along income or wealth lines. Those horrible corporations should be made to suffer like the rest of us peons. When you see a Bernie Madoff go to prison, does that bring you peace? Probably not. Why not? Because contention cannot produce peace.
In as many ways as we can be divided, we are divided, and manipulated to hate all members of all groups outside of the one we are in. In the Venn diagram that represents your life, that area in the very center where everyone shares all your characteristics and viewpoints, that’s the group of people with whom you are supposed to feel comfortable.
The media outlets are not informing you. Regardless of how many outlets you watch with what you think are “differing biases” you are still getting only what you are supposed to get to make a very uninformed decision. And once you make your decision, and you are prepared to defend it with all the emotion evoked every time you hear something about it, you are unlikely to change that decision.
Skip the Face Value
We need to all be looking at “news” and “information” with a very skeptical eye. If you must watch the “news,” try this: try NOT forming an opinion on a new story. Try to ask yourself, “What if they got most of the facts wrong on this?” What if they’re telling us only the part of the story that makes this person look bad, but nothing that makes him look good? And what if he really is good? And what if they just plain don’t know anything about the story, but just brought you some sensational stuff on it? Over the next few days, more “facts” will be discovered, but if you have already formed an opinion, you won’t change it with new “facts.” So try to NOT form an opinion. Then, over the next few days, try alternative news sources for more information. Over time, you will see stories come out on blogs from people who were really at the event and have a point of view that is very different–and likely much more valid–than you will hear reported on the “news.”
And most importantly, don’t let the media outlets do the analysis for you. Analyze it for yourself, and do so with an understanding that the analysis that is brought to you by the mainstream media outlets has been orchestrated to make you angry or afraid of anyone on the other side of the issue.
How to defend against orchestrated divisiveness
Finally, try turning off the news for a week. I promise you, you won’t be missing out on anything important. You will still hear about the most important stuff, but you’ll be able to investigate it with a much more open mind. Seriously, don’t even listen to talk radio. Don’t listen to radio news. Just turn it all off, and hunt down those incidents that you are genuinely concerned about. There is very little going on in the world that changes your life and that you can do anything about. When you do this, you will be searching with a less-jaundiced eye, a less-formed opinion. You will go through a bit of withdrawal. But at the end of the week, you will feel more peaceful.
Why? Because contention cannot produce peace.